Indonesian Wooden Radio Succeeds with Good Design
One Indonesian industrial designer has pioneered an innovative business that has rejuvenated the economy of a farming village and improved the sustainability of local forests – and he’s doing it all with wood.
Indonesian designer Singgih Susilo Kartono developed the radio design concepts while at the Faculty of Fine Art and Design in Bandung, Java, Indonesia, in the 1990s.
A range of wooden radios hold pride of place for the Magno brand, which has carved out a niche as a maker of high-quality, crafted products that marry traditional skills with modern design. Magno is creating jobs and skills while also creating a unique, exportable product that commands a good price.
He takes an organic approach to designing, enjoying the journey and not necessarily being sure where he is going.
“I never start my design according to the market research or demand. I design by absorbing events, global or local events and even mundane daily life things that happen around me. Consequently, I start to think what will be good and better for these people,” he explains in his brochure.
The workshop in which the radios are made is a handsome woodenroofed building and craftspeople sit at long wooden tables to assemble the models.
Each radio is made from a single piece of wood and takes a craftsperson 16 hours to construct, drawing on traditional woodworking skills. The radios are made from Indian rosewood, which is often used to manufacture many musical instruments because of its excellent sound resonance.
The radios are made in stages, with more than 20 steps involved in assembling each one. The individual parts are precision cut by machines before being assembled using a tongue-and-groove construction technique.
Some radio models have a chunky, retro appearance and mix dark and light wood to give an eye-pleasing contrast. Others are more modern designs with a sleek profile. There is a large version, a “Mini”, a sleek modern “Cube” version and a rectangular version. There is also a round clock and a wooden desktop office set with various essentials such as a wooden stapler.
The radios sell for between 99 euros (US$124) and 220 euros (US$276), and are shipped to Europe via Singapore to Hamburg in Germany. “To me, wood is somewhat a perfect material, especially if I compare it to synthetic ones,” Kartono said. “In wood, we could find strength and weakness, advantages and disadvantages or roughness and also softness. Wood is hard and solid but yet it is 100 per cent eco-friendly as it is degradable and leaves no waste materials on the earth.”
Great care is taken in selecting the wood and ensuring that it is from local, sustainable plantation sources. According to its website, Magno used 80 trees in 2010 for its radios but in turn planted 8,000 trees around the village. This regeneration has become part of the process of creating the radios.
Magno has won numerous awards, including the Brit Design Award (United Kingdom), Design Plus Award (Germany), Good Design Award/g-mark (Japan) and the Indonesia Good Design Selection Awards.
“The wood I use for the manufacturing process may need as long as 50 years to reach maturity,” Kartonosaid.“i want people not only to think about exotic or precious woods but likewise about the fact that good things require time. All objects that surround us should be thought-provoking. Craftsmanship originally was the art of dealing with raw materials in a sensible and economical way.”
Kartono was inspired by one of his teachers at university, an advocate of the “new craft”
approach, which applies modern management techniques to traditional craftsmanship. The idea is simple but very effective. It begins with making sure that every step of the manufacturing process is standardized to ensure consistent quality and materials. A new product or design is first broken down into steps and a product manual is put together. Only then is the manufacturing process carried out.
While the “new craft” method sounds simple and obvious, many craft makers do not take this approach. By following this methodology, it is possible to quickly train new craft workers and start up manufacturing in a new village or community. Craft is increasingly being seen as a good way to re-employ people who formerly worked in farming. The “new craft” approach can create high-quality products that would sell well in the export market. A common problem with crafts is either poor quality control or inconsistent manufacturing methods. This can feed stereotypes of craft products and make them look second-rate in comparison to machine-manufactured products in the marketplace.
“Design for us is more than just creating a well-designed product that is produced and consumed in colossal amounts,” Kartono said. “Design must be a way to solve and minimize problems.” – (June 2012)
Magno wooden radio with chunky, retro buttons.
Magno Radio user manual.
• wooden-radio.com • magno-design.com/?id=wr01a
Magno wooden product range, including clock.